Saturday, 19 April 2014

Update - ChefButler March Results

What is it? ChefButler 
How Much? $35/month for a box every month or $17.50/month for boxes every other month
What’s in it? Unique recipes, and high-quality dry ingredients and sauces needed to create a full meal.

The March ChefButler box featured food from Pakistan. You can read my original box review post here. I invited a few friends over for dinner the other night and prepared them a Middle Eastern feast. This is the third ChefButler meal I have prepared, and I think this one is my favourite.

On the menu:
  • Vegetable Biryani
  • Beef Queema
  • Ladoo

The ChefButler box included all the dry goods necessary, even rice! Everything comes pre-measured. Just cut open the packet and dump it in.

The shopping list list required the following fresh food items:
  • 1 red onion - $1.20
  • 1 white onion - $1.25
  • 1 tomato - $1.10
  • 2 large carrots - $0.53
  • 1lb yellow potatoes - $2.30
  • 7 garlic cloves (already had on hand)
  • ginger root (already had on hand)
  • fresh cilantro - $0.98
  • frozen peas - $1.49
  • 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef - $11.00 (2lbs)
  • plain yogourt - $4.97
  • whole milk - $1.99
  • cooking oil (already had on hand)
In total I spent $26.81 on groceries. I have left over yogourt, milk, and peas, which can be used for other recipes and purposes.

Biryani & Queema

The recipes were very easy to follow. The biggest time consumer was prepping the veggies - onions, carrots, tomato, and potatoes. Once the "mise en place", or prep work was complete, the cooking process was very easy. The Game Plan suggested to start the Queema once the rice was cooking. The timing worked perfectly as both dishes were finished cooking around the same time.

Vegetable Biryani is like rice pilaf. It's seasoned with garlic, ginger, cumin, garam masala, and turmeric. It was very flavourful and quite delicious. I will make this one again.

Beef Queema reminded me of goulash while I was cooking it. When it was complete it reminded me of Shepard's pie filling. When I tasted it, this queema reminded me of beef samosa filling. That's probably the best way to describe it. Queema is seasoned with garlic, ginger, turmeric, coriander, and cinnamon. It's stewed with peas and potatoes in a milk and yogourt mixture. I was a little concerned the potatoes would not cook through, but they ended up being absolutely perfect. This was another fragrant, flavourful dish. It's easily my favourite ChefButler dish so far.

Coconut & Apricot Ladoo

For dessert we made Ladoo. I opted not to prepare these in advance and instead made them with my guests while dinner was cooking. I thought it might make the food experience more fun and I was right. We had a great time trying to shape little balls out of the super sticky, sweet mixture. The balls were good, but nothing something I would make again.

I was really pleased with this ChefButler meal, as were my guests. Everyone had seconds (or thirds). The recipes are meant to make enough for four adults, but I had enough to feed double that amount. I cooked this meal on Monday night and I have been eating Biryani and Queema every day for lunch and/or dinner since. The total cost for the ingredients (including the $35 ChefButler box) was $61.81. That works out to just over $15 per person to feed four, or just about $8 per person to feed eight. Since my first ChefButler box I have wondered if it is a cost effective way of preparing meals. As a single person, cooking for myself, I would say it isn't, but when it comes to cooking for a crowd or a dinner party, ChefButler is probably more affordable than most other options. Only $8 to $15 per person for a quality three course meal is pretty reasonable.

If you are interested in trying the March ChefButler box featuring food from Pakistan, contact ChefButler by e-mail. At the end of each month they sell the left over boxes as a one-time purchase option for $35 each, while supplies last.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Ipsy Glam Bag Review - April 2014 - Beauty Subscription Bag

What is it? Ipsy Glam Bag
How Much? $10 per month, plus $4.95 shipping to Canada
What’s in it?  4-5 beauty products every month  

It's Ipsy time again. Ipsy is consistently one of my favourite subscriptions, because of the variety of brands and products they include every month. The theme for April's Ipsy Glam Bag is "Beauty Rocks".

Life is a dance floor, so why not live it up, sing out loud, and shake them hips?! This month, we're celebrating our unique beauty to the sound of tunes and festivals that fill the spring air. So, whether you're chilling in a campground or spinning in a ballroom, all of your April "Beauty Rocks!" products will help your lovely look become a hit!
 First look

The cosmetic bag is a bit larger than normal and features and old school record player motif. I have no opinion on the bag. Most of the ones I receive get donated. I admit, I peeked at my Glam Room in advance so I knew what I was getting. It's still fun to open the package and check out all the products though.

First up is my referral bonus gift. I was surprised to see this in my bag, since I didn't redeem any points for it. When I went to try to redeem points, it was no longer available. I'm thinking maybe all high-level referrers received one. From reading reviews it looks like those who did redeem points for this perk received two of them, and those that didn't redeem any received one. That's just a stab in the dark, to justify the existence of this product in my bag. No complaints though. It's a lovely product! (estimated value - $7)

Urban Decay 24/7 Velvet Glide-On Eye Pencil (travel size - 0.8g  $13)
Robyn had good things to say about this pencil so I'm very excited to try it. I'm looking for something other than my usual go-to liquid liner.  A full size is 1.5x the travel size version and costs $20.

Cailyn Tinted Lip Balm in Apple Ping (full size - $19)
I hate the packaging of this lip balm. It's super inconvenient. I like the colour though, but I probably won't use this.
Elizabeth Mott Pop! Goes the Shadow in Champagne (2g full size, $12.99)
This shadow is smaller than I expected, and the colour is less pink than it appears online, but it's a very nice basic, neutral colour. I enjoy it.

Dr. Brandt  Micodermabrasion Skin Exfoliant (0.25oz, $19.50)
Goodness this product is expensive. A 2 ounce tube is $78! It won the 2012 Allure Best of Beauty Award for Best Scrub... whatever that means. Reviews online indicate it might not be good for those with sensitive skin. I shall use with caution.

Demeter Perfume Roll On in Jasmine (0.29oz, $10)
I have always wanted one of these Demeter roll on prefumes so I was happy to see this, but the scent is a little too powerful and floral for my tastes. Demeter sure has some crazy scents - Pizza? Bourbon? And what does Sunshine smell like? How about Holy Water? And helllllllo Sex on the Beach!

My April Ipsy bag includes five products valued at $74.50 (not including the bonus product). It's a great value for a bag that cost me $14.95 ($16.97 CDN with exchange). I love the eyeliner and eye shadow. They are products I will definitely use and I will give the Microdermabraision srcub a try. I'm not sure if I will try the lip balm and perfume though. Those may go to the gift pile. Overall, I am happy with my April Ipsy haul.

If you are interested in signing up for Ipsy, please consider using my referral link!

What did you get in your Ipsy bag this month?

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Julep Maven Review - April 2014 - Beauty Subscription Box + PROMO CODES

This post includes affiliate links.

What is it? Julep Maven
How Much? $19.99 per month, shipping included
What’s in it? At least $40 worth of products chosen depending on your style profile, or upgrade your box for an additional fee and get the entire collection.

The April's theme is The Vivid Collection. It's a collection full of bright, vibrant polish colours for Spring, as well as new blush and bronzer products. This post is FULL of promo codes as Julep has gone a little promo crazy over the past month.

First look

I opted for the Modern Beauty box this month, which includes a blush and a bronzer. None of the polish colours really grabbed me, plus I don't really need any more nail polish in my collection.

Julep is still offering the PERK10 promo code. Get $10 off your next purchase of $20 or more. The offer only applies to regular store purchases, excluding Savvy Deals. Deal expires May 31, 2014.

But why settle for $10 off when you can get $20 off instead? Use promo code SPRING20 to save $20 off store orders of $50 or more. This one expires at 11:59pm Pacific time on April 18th, 2014. Same rules and restrictions apply.

Julep GLOW Pore Minimizing Blush in Peach Bellini ($24)
I really like this colour. It's a good every day, all purpose shade. 

Julep GLOW Pore Minimizing Bronzer in Light Golden Bronze ($28)
I don't use bronzer at all but thought I would give it a try. If it doesn't work out I will gift it to my sister. The reviews of this product on Julep's site are terrible.

And because I am just a subscription box reviewer, and don't know SFA about cosmetics, I will now direct you to Robyn from Brightest Bulb in the Box. I suggest you read her opinion on the blush and bronzer here. She debunks some of the claims Julep makes about these two products.

I didn't purchase the accompanying brushes, but if you are interested in the Julep Blush Brush or Julep Bronzer Brush, you can get 25% off until April 30, 2014 with promo code GLOW25.

My April Julep Maven box is really quite boring now that I look at the picture. I received two products this month, which Julep says are valued at $52 combined. I do like the blush and will likely add it into my rotation for basic makeup looks. The bronzer ended up being a no-go for me. It's too dark and I have no clue how to blend it well to make it work. It goes in the gift pile.

If you are interested in joining the Julep Maven program to get your own monthly Maven box, click here. Don't forget to use promo code FREEBOX to get your first box free. Just pay $4.95 shipping. Next month features the coveted and highly promoted Julep Plie Wand.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Topbox Review - April 2014 - Beauty Subscription Box

What is it? Topbox
How Much? $12 per month, shipping included
What’s in it?  4 deluxe beauty samples   

My April Topbox arrived today, right on schedule. Topbox ships on the 15th of the month, as of January 2014. Despite pushing shipping back by one week, their shipping still runs like clockwork. I received my shipping notice yesterday and my box was delivered to my door this morning. I selected the regular box this month.

As soon as I unwrapped the packaging I could smell peppermint. The product card indicates soap is included so that must be the culprit. I love peppermint so this is good.

Pur-Lisse - Pur-Moist Hydra Balance Moisturizer (15ml,  $13.65)

LA Splash - Nail Splash in Grey Cashmere (10ml, $7.50)
At first I was disappointed with this colour. In the bottle it looks like mud. Not very fun for spring. After applying a very quick coat to test it out, I actually really like it. I'm going to do a full mani later today! 

Sweet Pea Soap - French Green Clay ($5.95)
The source of the minty smell! I used to feel indifferent about receiving soap but now I really enjoy sampling all sorts of fancy bars that can't be found in the drug store.

Elizabeth Arden - Prevage (2ml sample,  $21)
I've received this sample before, from the Murale Fab & Free promo. Back then it came in a little 5ml vial. This foil packet is pretty disappointing, but even this puny 2ml sample is worth over $20! I wouldn't normally count a foil packet towards the box value but Prevage is like liquid gold. A full size runs $155 for 15ml. I may try to pour this sample into my existing Prevage vial to make it more useful.

My April Topbox contained four products valued at $48.10. I paid $13.44 for this box ($12 plus tax) so it's a great value. This isn't my favourite Topbox, but I will use everything I received so it's a win. I think the nail polish is my favourite item this month and I can't wait to rock my Grey Cashmere mani at work tomorrow!

What did you receive in your April Topbox?

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Kawaii Supplies Review - April 2014 - International Treat Subscription

This package was received complimentary for review.

What is it? Kawaii Supplies
How Much? $10-15 per month, depending on subscription type
What’s in it? A variety of Japanese candy and snacks

Kawaii Supplies is a new Canadian subscription service, based in Alberta. Kawaii Supplies gets Japanese candy and snacks, directly from Japan, and sends them out to subscribers across Canada. Kawaii Supplies generously sent this bag of treats for me to review.

Kawaii Supplies has 4 subscription options to choose from:
  • Mystery Snack Pack A and B contain 5-6 treats, weighing between 50-100 grams, and will ship in an envelope. Both are $10 per month and include tax and shipping.
  • The Regular Monthly Subscription is $15 per month and includes both Mystery Snack Pack A and B. It also includes tax and shipping.
All three of the above subscription options are sent via letter mail. The treats will all be small, flat type products that will fit through the 2cm height slot that the post office uses to distinguish letter mail (flat rate across Canada) from parcel post (more expensive). Kawaii affectionately calls the 2cm slot the "slot of doom" because if the package doesn't fit through, it gets charged postage at a much higher rate.

  • The Premium Monthly Subscription is $15 per month, plus shipping. This package includes larger snacks and treats that won't fit into the 2cm letter mail slot. Shipping is charged based on destination so the closer you are to Edmonton, Alberta, the cheaper shipping will be. The package they sent me was charged over $11 shipping.
 First look.

There was no product card included, which really confused me at first. Then I realized Kawaii had sent me a document via e-mail that explained what everything is and listed the ingredients. 

As a subscriber, you can expect to receive the same e-mail each month. Click on the image above to view it full size. Despite the list, I still had a hard time figuring out what was what. I had to compare the Japanese characters on the list with the lettering on the packages. It took a while, but I think I figured it out!

All the products dumped out of the bag! 

I received the Premium package, which includes an assortment of small and large treats, candies, and snacks. Because the treats were shipped loose in a bubble mailer, I found many of them crushed or broken.

From left to right, top to bottom:
  • Umai-bo Teriyaki Flavour (broken in half)
  • Shimi Choco Corn 
  • Melon Pandaro (broken to pieces) 
  • Mochi Taro (broken to pieces) 
  • Ramune Iro Iro (x2) 
  • Puccho (x2)

Left to right, top to bottom:
  • Makken Gumi (cider flavour) 
  • Pierre Ojisan No Roll Cake 
  • Puchi Du Choco Strawberry Flavour 
  • Calcium Sen (2 of 3 broken to pieces) 
  • Potato Fry (broken to pieces)

There is no way to put an actual value on these items, but I would say $15 is definitely worth it if you are in the market for Japanese candies and treats. It should be noted that Kawaii changed their subscription model and pricing after sending me this package. Previously a monthly package would have cost over $25 per month, including shipping. I was very happy to see they had re-worked the model and added different levels of subscriptions, making them more affordable. I would like to see a different style of packaging to ensure the treats don't arrive damaged, but other than that, it's a fun subscription. I've tried a few of the snacks and some were very strange, while some were very tasty.

What do you think of Kawaii Supplies?

Topbox - Limited Edition LOULOU Summer Topbox - On Sale Now!

Topbox has released a great new Limited Edition box, just in time for warmer weather and brighter days. It includes everything shown in the above picture, plus a bonus LOULOU subscription!

LOULOU magazine's experts have brought together the newest, best beauty finds of the season in this Limited Edition LOULOU Summer Topbox. In it, you'll find all the latest and amazing trends that you won't want to miss! A $130+ value!

This Limited Edition LOULOU Summer Topbox box is $40 and includes free shipping. The boxes start shipping May 15th.

Click here to get your own LOULOU Summer Topbox, available while supplies last.

(The Limited Edition FLARE Mani-Pedi Kit is still available as well, for only $25!)

Monday, 14 April 2014

Whimsey Box Review - March 2014 - DIY Subscription Box

What is it? Whimsey Box  (Use this link for $5 off!)
How much? $15/month for 1, 3, 6 month subscriptions. 12 month subscription is $165, or $11/month. Plus $5 per month shipping to Canada.
What's in it? Receive a new DIY craft project each month with the materials and instructions necessary.
I'm happy I re-subscribed to Whimsey Box at the end of January. February's box was a hit and it the March box was right up my alley as well. 

I noticed some grease staining on the outside of my Whimsey Box... it wasn't bad on the top, but the underside was almost completely saturated.

Inside doesn't look so bad, but the instruction card was also saturated.

The theme for March is Soft Hands and includes everything necessary to make all natural Lemon Honey Hand Scrub and Lemon Honey Hand Cream. The jar on the right, sweet almond oil, was protected by a ziplock baggie. The jar on the left, coconut oil, was not protected in plastic, so some of the coconut oil melted in transit and leaked out all over the box. Thankfully the mess was contained to the box and didn't do much damage to anything other than the instruction card and the box. Lesson for Whimsey Box folks: coconut oil can be a liquid too!

Instruction card, jar labels, product card.

Ingredients: Sugar, beeswax, Shea butter, honey, lemon oil, almond oil, coconut oil.

Making the hand cream.

The instructions were very clear and included step by step photos and written direction. I made the scrub first and it was so easy. Just 4 ingredients. Mix together and done. I will probably make my own sugar scrub again since it is so easy, all natural, and much more cost effective than store bought.

The hand cream was a little messier to make because it involved melting beeswax (which took forever), with Shea butter and coconut oil. My wax didn't melt entirely and the honey didn't mix well into the rest of the ingredients, so the finished product has an odd texture. I also noticed the volume of my coconut oil was a little less than what I was supposed to have, likely because some was lost in transit as it leaked out all over the box. I wouldn't make my own  hand cream again. I didn't love the results and found it greasy rather than creamy.

The included labels are really cool  and came from Kidecals. I do a lot of home canning so I will definitely check out Kidecals later this summer when canning season begins! They will be perfect for the canning I do for gifting. Spicy Dill Beans and Cranberry Wine Jelly are very popular amongst my friends & family!

The March Whimsey Box included all the ingredients I needed to make 4 ounce pots of Lemon Honey Hand Scrub and Lemon Honey Hand Cream. I really enjoyed the projects and I'm happy I learned how to make my own homemade sugar scrub. Whimsey includes little pins in all the boxes now, like Girl Scout badges. I earned the Soft Hands Set achievement badge. I like to use the pins on my office bulletin board in place of tacks. They're pretty and fun, and I can show off my DIY "cred".

What do you think of the March  Whimsey Box?

If you are interested in the Soft Hands Set from Whimsey Box, you can buy your own here. They also have a Honey Lavender version!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

ChefButler Review - March 2014 - Meal Preparation Subscription Box

What is it? ChefButler 
How Much? $35/month for a box every month or $17.50/month for boxes every other month
What’s in it? Unique recipes, and high-quality dry ingredients and sauces needed to create a full meal. 

My March ChefButler box arrived nearly a month ago so I'm a little behind on posting. The theme for March was Pakistani food, a cuisine I have never experienced. I love Indian food so I am excited to try a new cuisine from the South Asia region.

Pakistani cuisine is best known for its balance of spices, and richness of flavour. The cuisine also varies greatly by region, with some of the Eastern regions having food similar to that found in India. One of the main differences of of Pakistani cuisine is the dominant role meat plays in the cooking, especially in comparison to other South Asian countries.

The box was smaller this month, and everything arrived in perfect condition. No leaks! As soon as I opened the lid, I could smell the fragrant spices.

First look

As always, ChefButler includes a welcome letter with a "Game Plan", recipes, and a shopping list. The box is filled with all the recipes and pantry ingredients necessary to make an appetizer, entree, and dessert for four adults.

For March, instead of an appetizer, ChefButler included a side dish of Vegetable Biryani. Biryani is a rice dish, made with chopped vegetables and lots of spices like cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, and garam masala.

The main is Beef Qeema (pronounced key-ma). It's a traditional dish made from minced meat. This recipe calls for ground beef.

There are lots of different spices in the Qeema, giving it a rich and unique flavour - we can’t get enough of it! While both the Biryani and Qeema incorporate lots of flavour from their spices, we find them to be a nice compliment to each other, and love them together.

For dessert, it's Coconut Ladoo. Ladoo is a Sanskirt word meaning "a small ball". It's a ball-shaped sweet served at festivals and religious celebrations. This version of Ladoo is made of coconut, dried apricots, cardamom, and sweetened condensed milk.

I haven't had an opportunity to make this meal because I'm saving for a friend who has a great interest in food from the region. Once I've made  the meal I will post "after" pictures. It's something completely new to me so I'm really looking forward to this one.

If you are interested in ordering your own Paskistani themed ChefButler box, ChefButler is now offering "one-off" boxes for sale at the end of each month. For $35 (same as subscription price), you can order the box of the month (or get an extra if you already received it). Just e-mail to purchase.

Or... try signing up for a subscription. You can opt for a box every month or alternating months. Click here to learn more about ChefButler.